First PioneerCampus PhD graduation – in Time & in Style

From left: Dr. T. Schwarz-Romond, Director of Operations; Dr. S. Wiedenmann; Prof. M. Meier, PI

It was only 2018 that the first Pioneer Campus Principal Investigators started their research @Helmholtz Munich, not the least by recruiting talented doctoral students from different disciplines, countries and backgrounds into a completely novel endeavour.

It hence gives us all extreme pleasure to announce and sincerely congratulate the first-ever Helmholtz Pioneer Campus PhD-graduate Sandra Wiedenmann, bioengineer, biologist and trained bioinformatician from the BioEngineering and Microfluidics lab of Prof. Matthias Meier.

‘Being the first one graduating from the PioneerCampus is exciting, but at the same time, I am extremely thrilled about the fleury of either already or soon-to-be-published/submitted thesis works of my PhD-student peers that I had the privilege to see emerging within our broad and interdisciplinary organization’ says Sandra.

Sandra received a Bachelor from the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg and excelled during her master in Integrated Life Sciences, before joining the Meier-lab in Munich. Sandra instantly became instrumental in launching Matthias’ new lab into full operations, located within the inspiring environment of the Helmholtz Diabetes Center. She also, and single-handedly, pushed an extremely valuable scientific collaboration with dedicated Stem Cell labs at the University Hospital and Clinic in Ulm – a role not eased but never halted - during the paralyzing months of a global pandemic. On the contrary, her perseverance translated into a prominent authorship on a fundamental study published 2021 in Cell Stem Cell that modelled the physiological and dysplastic changes of human ductal organogenesis – simply put: recapitulates early stages of the developing human ductal pancreas and pancreatic cancer using organoids. Crucially, Sandra pushed the latter concept(s) toward a first author paper in Nature Biomedical Engineering that reports for the first time single-cell-resolved human pancreatic duct-like organoids from iPSCs on microwell chips. Her work paves the way to unprecedented insights into the earliest molecular aberrations of ductal pancreatic cancer. The importance is further underscored by the immediate translatability of the organ-on chip technologies toward precision diagnostics as well as therapeutic screening capabilities for this still incurable and extremely devastating cancer which appears globally on the rise. 

Not surprising, Sandra defended her thesis – which she had handed into the university office exactly 3 years & 11 months after starting at Helmholtz – with the highest honors (summa cum laude) and will continue in Matthias’ lab for some time to come. Her motivation results from the bona-fide science translational direction that may lead into a biotech, assuming her continuous hard work aligns with all necessary circumstances accordingly.


Once again our most sincere congratulations Sandra, for your science contribution to the highest possible standards:

+ graduation work in a timely manner and despite most demanding circumstances;

+ published in top venues;

+ tangible contribution to deliver new biomedical solutions;

+ defending in style with the highest marks;


Hello Doctor Sandra Wiedenmann, it was an honor having you – all the best for your professional journey and may all your dreams become true!